Hitchhiking back to Canada took longer than I thought it would. I had to try to walk. But at least, as a ghost, I no longer required food or sleep.
I also was not cold, warm, or even physically tired, but boy was I board. I walked along the highway, making my way through the desert. After a little trial and error, I found that I could hitch a ride on any car parked long enough for me to form a connection. This resulted in me being stuck in a trunk for a few hours; California to Idaho, Idaho to Montana.
I hung around Yellowstone National Park, searching all of the tourists from all over the country (and the world.) It didn’t take me long to find a family heading to Saskatchewan.
I found a mini-van, anyway. The white Toyota had Canadian plates so I knew it would at least get me across the border. But clearly, the family was staying at the local hotel. In the car, there were books and DVDs, even a few coloring books and dolls; the junk pile of happy children. “I bet all the good stuff’s in the hotel room.” Ipad, Nintendo DS, and other things I never had as a kid.
Reclining my spectral form, across the backseat, I made myself comfortable, staring up at the ceiling. There was an elaborate display of glow in the dark star stickers, creating a whole separate world within the confines of the family vehicle. For the children, I’m sure it was a means of keeping quiet, focused, and maybe even relaxed on long road trips. But to me, the stars symbolized hope.
No matter how many times a soul is reborn, we will always find comfort and wisdom in looking at the stars. I stared transfixed until the light of the morning ushered in the screams of children.
“I don’t wanna go!”
“I don’t wanna go in the car seat!”
I watched as the two small children were strapped into their car seats while an older teenage boy sat in the row in front. “What do you want to watch?” he grumbled before selecting the first DVD in the pile. It was ‘Moana,’ the cartoon about the Maori princess. I always liked that one, it seemed to be the best Disney would ever get to a First Nation princess. I guess that was why I needed to be the hero of my own life.
Hours later, we arrived in Regina. I heard from the parents that they were almost home, so I made sure to make my exit when the vehicle stopped at a gas station.
I was in Canada, I was home. Now, how the hell was I going to find Randell Fish? If this was a movie from the eighties I’d head to the nearest phone booth, and start flipping through the massive directory book. But since this was the age of the internet I would need to try my luck with a public computer. Looking around for signage, I could see there was a library not too far from where I was.
It was not to difficult to find, even as the sun went down. I phased through the doors of the closed library, like a typical ghost. “What was I made of?” I stroked the security sensor by the door to see if my presence would set off any alarms. Nothing, oh well.
I approached a counter, which housed a typical desktop PC. I reached my hand to the power button, with thoughts of Randell Fish. Where did he live? Where did he work? Where did he sleep? I could picture everything I wanted to do to him; make him live through every painful moment. Maybe I could possess a knife or even reach my ghostly hand inside of his body cavity and rip out his organs piece by piece. I felt a rush of energy and then a loud explosion. BANG! “Oh fuck.”
Judging by the sparks and smoke, I appeared to have blown up the machine using only my rage. Lesson learned: I needed to maintain better control. “Moving to the next computer.”
I could feel a steady flow of electric power, wash over me, as I pushed the start button on the PC tower. “Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts,” I said out loud, attempting to find a happy thought to focus on. “Happiness, joy, love, um… childhood?” What did I like about my childhood? “School…” Without touching the keyboard I managed to turn on the screen and navigate to Facebook. How common of a name was Fish?
“Search, Fish, Saskatchewan,” I said out loud. The computer filled in the request bar to my will. And then I remembered; Randell Fish was the father of a former judge, the very judge who sent my uncle to jail. Could I focus on that? “Search deceased Canadian judges with the last name ‘Fish.'”
Google returned an answer: Judge Sophia Rosalinda Fish- Ryder. Apparently, Randell Fish had lost a daughter and a very successful one at that. Her memorial page was covered in graduation pictures; high school, college, various awards, law school, and of course getting sworn in as a judge. Her husband and children were by her side; she had a family, Randell Fish’s family. Jordan Fish-Ryder, a Sophomore at a boarding school in Boston, and little Tanya.
Tanya was only nine years old and still went to school in-state. Part of me wondered if she went to the same school as I did, but of course not. She went to a posh K-8 private school, in the most beautiful part of Northern Canada. I would find her and I would follow her home. “Power down,” I said out loud as I moved my hand backward.
Under the light of the moon, I took a walk. The world seemed to be frozen over, like an arctic wasteland. I had no idea if I was even going the right way. By the light of the moon, I could hear the wind, but it sounded odd. Instead of a soft whisper, it was like a chorus of voices.
“You really think you can do this, little girl?”
“She’s young, of course, she does.”
The mocking was followed by laughter, so much laughter.
“What’s your problem!” I shouted at the starry night sky.
“You actually think you can find peace?” Asked one star, pulsating in the sky.
“I’m looking for justice,” I replied.
“Justice?” That got a lot more laughter.
“Screw you all! I can do this all on my own!”
Suddenly a single beam of light seemed to cut across the sky like a shooting star. “Come on, ladies, we’re better than this.” The voice was American.
“Thanks,” I said, wiping tears from my eyes. “I’m Tia what’s your name?” I wondered if she was one of the victims of the Highway of Tears (a place infamous for its history of missing women of various ages and nationalities.)
The sky went dark as the shooting star launched itself straight at a lamppost. The lamp seemed to shimmer for a moment before going dark again.
I was actually a little scared when suddenly, a girl stepped out from the shadows. “Hi, I’m Vena.” In her ghost form, Vena was small like me, but she wore a recognizable military uniform. Her camo fatigues were covered in dust. Yet her black hair, pulled back in a military-approved bun highlighted her sweet smile. Vena held out her hand, leaning forward with a slight bow. “Where are you headed?”
I had been frozen in place, but hearing her kind, friendly voice allowed me to fully relax. “Up north, to St. Unity prep school.”
“I can walk with you for a while, maybe show you the way.”
“Thanks,” I said, finally shaking her hand. “I’d like that. It’s been a while since I had a friend.”
We walked like childhood friends, jumping, skipping, with the occasional cartwheel. “So where are you from, Vena?”
“Missouri,” Vena said as she pretended to walk along the sidewalk ledge like a balance beam, ending with a backflip.
“Wow, so you’re from around St. Louis?” I asked, feeling happier than I had in a while.
“St. Louis county.”
“That’s the place with the arch, right? That must have been so cool!”
“Yeah, I guess but after seeing it all your life it just looks like any other tourist trap.” Vena made a small jump on to a new ledge. “Probably why I died where I did.”
“You died in combat?” That seemed to be the logical answer. She looked seventeen, maybe eighteen-years-old. It was not out of the realm of possibility for her to have gotten deployed immediately after basic training.
“Sorta,” she said with a shrug. “I was at odds with a very powerful man in my chain of command. I stood my ground, fought with everything I had but in the end I lost.”
“I was murdered.” Vena took a calming breath. Clearly, she was able to control her ghost-energy better then I was. “It was a while ago.” She started to skip and even did a spin on one foot. “The army covered up everything. They told my family it was a suicide.” Vena’s body rippled with energy.
“I’m so sorry.” I reached for her hand, hoping to siphon away some of the negative energy.
“They told my poor father, that somehow I put an AK-47 in my mouth. And I did this while naked during the one time of day my roommates would not be in.” Vena took my hand and we both sat for a moment. “They shipped my body home with gloves glued to my hands, so no autopsy could be done to prove or disprove gunshot residue.”
“The powerful people assumed your family would just move on.”
“The US army underestimated my daddy. ” Vena held my hand, releasing dark purple energy.
I easily absorbed the anger and trauma, but with it came memories. Vena’s parents had to fight for every piece of evidence, every ‘classified’ document, name, and image. “Are your parents still fighting the military?
“Yeah, it’s been over ten years but I know my daddy will keep fighting until his last breath. I guess that’s why I’m still here.”
“In northern Canada?”
That got a laugh. “In the in-between,” Vena explained. “I can’t get to heaven, hell, or even be reborn. But when my dad does take his last breath, I’ll be at his side. Maybe I’ll even get to walk with him to the light.”
My hands trembled, glowing with cold blue energy.
“Sorry,” Vena said, gripping my hand. “Blue energy means sadness. I apologize for hitting a sore subject.”
I nodded, but I was not ready to talk to her about my relationship with my dad. (That would only result in more blue energy until my spirit was too frozen to move.) “Do you know the joke about Hell?”
“I know a few, what’s yours?”
“A tribal leader is about to be burned to death by the Spanish army. The executioner asks if he’d like to accept Christ, for a chance at heaven. But the tribal leader asked, ‘Does your kind go to heaven?’ The Spaniard replied, with a tall proud stance, ‘Of course!’ Well, in that case, I think I’ll take my chances in hell.”
Vena doubled over with laughter. “Oh, God, that is so true! I have no doubt that my killer is going to die peacefully surrounded by family maybe even a priest offering him absolution.” She went from laughter to slight tears. “Maybe then he’ll confess his sins and my family can finally have some closure. But that’s my cross to bear.” She looked down at her feet, then up at an elaborate gate. “Anyway, we’re here. Best of luck Tia.
“Thank you.” Hanging out with Vena secured the validity of my plan. The system was against us, protecting the big strong men who took our lives. Only when the overly important bastards admit to their sins could we, the victims, hope to move on.
I stayed outside the gate, watching the sunrise. By the first light of morning, the parents started to arrive, dropping their children off at the security checkpoint. I just had to wait for the name.
“Adam Ryder signing in Tanya Elizabeth Fish-Ryder?” He didn’t get out of the car but the guard typed the name into his tablet.
Tanya, a fashionable fourth grader with her mother’s ebony black hair and perfectly ironed school uniform. The security was strong, I imagine that had I not been a ghost, stalking any of the students would’ve proved difficult.
I followed her throughout the day, living a life that I could only dream of. She went to class with the same teacher for the majority of the day. At lunch she sat with her friends, eating sushi from a shimmery metallic lunch box.
“You painted that yourself, didn’t you,” I said out loud.
Tanya froze. She looked around for a moment, before shrugging.
Knowing there was the possibility she could hear me I kept quiet for the rest of the day. Lunch was followed by art, science, and computer programming. She had after school violin lessons for a few hours. It was mostly her playing around with melodies. She could play along with various pop-songs in various languages. It was actually kind of impressive. After the lesson Tanya walked outside, waiting in the cold, with her earbuds in, listening to music on a small iPod that looked older than her. In less than a minute, she was picked up by her Hispanic Nanny. The elderly woman held open the door to what I assumed was Adam Ryder’s posh Jeep Cherokee. She arranged Tanya’s bags as she took a seat and when they were settled she tapped on the driver’s side window to signal the chauffeur.
I gripped the back of the vehicle, using my energy to create a firm hold as I rode on the bumper. The Fish-Ryder family lived in a quiet cabin a few miles away, in a rather unique, beautiful gated community.
I walked through the door to the sight of a family home. There was a kitchen, a living room, even a fireplace. And pictures, so many pictures. The walls were covered in memories; school photos, vacations, even professional portraits of a happy family. Was this even the home of Randell Fish?
And then I spotted a single photo. It was him, taking his grand-kids ice fishing. “Fucking bastard.”
“Are you talking about my grandpa?”
Before I could reply, Tanya grabbed the photo and headed upstairs. Somehow, I guess, she knew I would follow. Tanya’s second-floor room was a museum of pop-culture from the latest dolls, to teen idols, and even a camera set up. “Do you have a YouTube channel?” My question went unanswered as she powered up her laptop. “Um, hello?”
“I’ll be the one to ask the questions. If you don’t mind,” Tanya replied sounding much older than her years. “I’m just going to assume you won’t show up on film, so if you please will you do something for the camera to prove your existence?”
“For your viewers?” I glared at the camera which was capturing footage directly to the hard drive of the laptop. “Are you some kind of amateur ghost hunter?” I grabbed the photo back from where she had placed it face down on her desk, lifting it to the level of the camera.
“So what do you want with my grandpa?” she asked, like a reporter.
On the screen, I could see Tanya interviewing what appeared to be a floating framed picture. It was actually kind of adorable.
“Did he run you off the road?”
Those were not words I expected from a nine-year-old. “Is that something he does a lot?
“All truckers do it.”
“Your grandpa told you that?”
“Yup. Grandpa told me that your kind are like wild game animals; if responsible hunters didn’t thin the herd you’d drain our nation’s resources dry. That’s why you all have names like John Running Horse or Jane Hopping Rabbit.”
“You can’t honestly believe that.” Just how many people had Randell Fish killed?
“My grandpa has no reason to lie.”
I focused on the laptop screen, watching the photo floating gently in the air. I knew I needed to keep my cool. Tanya wanted a show, that’s all it was. I focused on the door, securing both the deadbolt and the key lock. “Be a dear and contact your grandpa.”
“How?” she asked sweetly, keeping in character. “How should I contact my grandpa?”
Knowing Tanya wanted to capture another trick for the camera, I focused on her phone. I easily lifted the small iPhone from the bed, making it land in her lap. “You can call your grandpa or attempt to call for help, either one works for me.”
Tanya only chuckled, placing the phone on her desk.
Ok, apparently I needed to be a little more forceful. I moved closer, placing my hand to her neck. As expected my ghost hand passed right through. Yet as I clenched my fist I could feel I was gripping something.
Tanya started to cough, and spit as she struggled to breathe. Seeing that she was turning blue I decided that I had made my point. She collapsed to the floor, gripping her neck. “Your kind killed my mother!” Tanya crossed her arms over her stomach, gripping her chest as she sobbed. “Mom was nothing like Grandpa, she supported ‘black lives matter,’ ‘red lives matter,’ ‘all lives matter,’ or whatever. She said as a good Catholic we needed to love our fellow man because everyone is someone’s child, and we’re all equal in the eyes of God! She preached love, supported charities, and even would pick a fight with Grandpa every chance she got!” Tanya struggled to breathe as she wiped snot from her nose. “Do you know what that got her? A bullet in the head!”
“You know?” Tanya sat up. She wiped her tears with her clean sleeve, before looking me in the eyes.
“My father was there.”
Tanya nodded as she took a moment to digest that information. “So, this is all some kind of daisy chain of revenge?”
“Yup, you could say that. But it ends with Randell Fish.”
“I understand.” Tanya reached for her phone. She looked through her contacts, took a deep breath, and dialed. It rang only once. “Hi, Papa.”
“Put the phone on speaker,” I said, hoping my voice was not audible over the phone.
Tanya nodded and did as I asked. “Where are you, Papa?”
“I’m about twenty miles out,” Randell replied. “Why do you ask, sweetheart?”
“I was wondering if you could come to dinner,” Tanya spoke in a sweet energetic voice. “I really miss you.”
“Aww, I miss you too Tanya. What time should I try to be there?”
Tanya glanced over at the clock, it was already six at night. “Seven or eight, whatever’s easier.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can, sweetheart. I love you.”
“I love you too, Grandpa.” Tanya hung up the phone. “So, what now? Are we going to just stay in here until he arrives?”
“Yeah, that sounds about right,” I said with a nod. “You have a bathroom and if you don’t have snacks hidden around here you are truly a weird kid.”
Tanya smiled, reaching directly behind her. She looked to be grabbing a leg of her desk, but with the flick of her wrist, a secret panel opened, dispensing a single fun-size candy bar. “What kind of snacks did you hide in your room as a kid?”
“I was always partial for beef jerky or cheap off-brand twinkies.”
“The off brands always taste better,” Tanya said with a smirk.
As she picked up her phone, I noticed the lock screen, it was her mother’s college graduation picture. “You’re really proud of her.”
“There was a lot to be proud of.” Tanya’s voice was soft, filled with genuine emotion.
It was clear she was a lost soul looking for guidance, in the wake of her mother’s death.
We talked for a while, and I finally got the chance to introduce myself.
“Your name is Tianna, like the Frog princess? That’s kinda cool.”
At around seven, there was a knock at the door. “Tanya, sweetie, it’s Grandpa. Why is your door locked?”
Tanya looked at me. “I’m going to open the door, Tianna.”
I nodded, knowing Randell Fish heard my name.
The tall older man wore his work clothes as if his semi-truck was parked right in the front driveway. He took a look around the room. “Who are you talking to sweetheart?”
Without a second thought, I punched Randell Fish in the chest as hard as I could. He doubled over in pain, his body melting into my ghostly form. My hand was gripping something; a bone, maybe part of a lung? Certainly not a heart.
Tanya took a step back. “I’m sorry, Grandpa.”
“You’re sorry?” he said with a laugh, as blood dripped from his mouth.
I gripped harder, pulling at whatever I had my hands on. “She’s nothing like you.” Your daughter, Sophia, was an amazing person and I am truly sorry for her death.”
Randell was still smiling. “Does your dead, drug-dealer daddy know how the police found your body? Does he know you died sucking off that dirty cop?”
“Jay is not…” I pulled towards myself, tearing my hand from his chest, through his neck, to his head. Randell was still smiling like a psychopath as his body fell limp to the ground.
Tanya was screaming, she was huddled in a corner with her knees pulled to her chest.
I looked down at my hand, unable to fully comprehend what I was holding. It was a mass of gore, spilling off my hands on to the floor. As I stood up, moving away from the body, I could see identifiable parts. There was a trail of organ meat that was once his throat, stomach, and small intestines. In my hand was his brain. I started to laugh. “I did it, Jay. I took his head.”
Tanya’s father arrived, along with the cook and the nanny. That was when I heard a beep. It was an alarm from the laptop. Everyone turned to see the pop-up, “Capture limit has been reached.” The camera had been on the entire time.
The next few days seemed to rush by in a flurry of lights, and voices. The police took the laptop and the body. According to what they saw, Randell Fish fell to the floor, hitting his head over and over until (somehow) his brain fell out of his mangled skull.
Tanya had been right; I did not show up on film. The final footage made no sense. The girl was clearly talking to someone for over an hour before her white-trash trucker grandpa arrived. Clearly, he had a heart attack (not uncommon for a man his age,) that was deemed to be the cause of death.
Tanya was given back her computer and went straight to her YouTube page. Since the death had been deemed an accident she was allowed to post the footage (the footage that wouldn’t get her channel in trouble for mature or obscene content.)
She spoke to her followers about the mysterious First Nation ghost. She didn’t mention me by name, only that I was one of many victims killed due to race, age, or gender.
“As many of you know my mom was a judge,” she said, speaking into her mic. “When she died, all I knew was that someone with dark skin murdered the most important person in my life. People around me just repeated that; bad dark-skinned people killed your mother, bad dark-skinned people are what’s wrong with our society. But that’s not the truth.
When you lump all people into one group based on physical traits it doesn’t make us strong, it makes us weak. We need to stand together to help one another, to make this world a better place. One voice at a time.” Tanya looked up from her notes and wiped tears from her eyes. “Now I just have to wait for this to render.” She looked around, “Tianna, Are you there?”
I was about to speak when suddenly I was pulled backward with a strong force.
This was the end of my story. I was about to move on.
Tanya, if you read this; I love you, and I know you’ll make your mother proud.